Piles of private documents found in Milton dumpster

MILTON, Wash. -- Personal and private information about customers at a large daycare chain was left exposed in a dumpster for as long as 24 hours, and one upset client said that's more than enough time to do harm.

A man out walking his dog early Tuesday morning noticed something alarming at the dumpster next to La Petite Academy daycare in Milton. It was a dumpster full of documents. He went to get a closer look and was appalled at what he found.

"Clearly it was personal data that hadn't been disposed of properly," said the man, who didn't want to be identified.

The documents had names, addresses, phone numbers, health information and social security numbers of customers and former customers of La Petite Academy.

"It's pretty scary actually in this day and age with the security breaches of information," said the tipster.

Right on the top of the pile was a copy of a check from Patrick and Karen Reffner.

"It's very disturbing," said Karen. "And our boys had been going there for a long time, so we will definitely be in touch with the director over there."

A member of the daycare center's management team was surprised by the discovery and said an assistant had cleaned out records older than 7 years yesterday and, unfortunately, this is where they went unshredded.

"We'll take care of it. She should have shred them before she put them in the dumpster," the manager said.

In a statement, La Petite Academy said, "We have a strict document retention policy to safeguard customer and employee information. We will investigate what occurred and take appropriate action."

State law says negligent disposal of private information could lead to a several hundred dollar fine. But police say it doesn't rise to the level of a criminal act.

"There's no crime involved here," said Milton police chief Mark Langford. "In fact, we've made contact with the business and this appears to be a very inadvertent mistake that was corrected right away."

The staff members loaded up all of the documents and carted them back into the office.

But those affected fear the damage may have already been done.

"Thank you for bringing it to my attention," said Karen. "So I'll be on the phone to the bank here in a minute."